Mr. Franzen: Helping Students Grow as Strong as Trees

Sarah Clark, Senior Editor

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With the new 2017 school year rolling in, several new teachers have been hired to instruct at Cuba-Rushford Central School. Mr. Franzen, the new Global Studies teacher was hired to replace Mr. Butler. Mr. Franzen is from Louisville, Kentucky and went to Washington Lee University along with the University of Louisville. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, hiking, cooking, working on old houses, traveling and gardening. He is really enthusiastic about the outdoors and planting trees. He also loves to spend time with his young daughter, Hazel.

Mr. Franzen ended up at Cuba-Rushford because he and his wife were applying for loan forgiveness programs in the United States and found some in New York. They visited the area, loved it and both of them were able to find jobs. He enjoys teaching in the realm of social studies because it includes various broad topics such as biology, psychology, philosophy and landforms. So far, he enjoys the school as he has been “super impressed with the people, with the area, the level of rigor and academic inquiry that’s happening here, the level of professionalism and skill of my peers of teachers and also with the students, just blown away.” When asked about two people from history he would like to meet, one of the people he mentioned was John Muir (a naturalist, author, and environmental philosopher), he even tries to look like him. Overall, instead of meeting people from the past, he simply would like to live how people did in certain time eras, not particularly meeting exact people. He also thinks that “a lot of the time history becomes names and dates and it becomes incredibly reductionist where we see it as a timeline,” and that that should not be what history is.

John Muir

In the classroom, he uses different methods of teaching because he recognizes that not all students learn in the same manner. In fact, every day his desks are moved around and his students are ready for a new set up everyday. His favorite way of instructing is to have everyone in a circle and hold a “socratic seminar.” He believes that it is the teachers duty to “help students unpack all of those things inside their brain, to make sense of them and to be able to critically poke them to figure out what are these things that I’ve experienced? How do they make sense? How do I question them in a meaningful way and then empower myself to be able to make choices so I’m not passively going through life?” His favorite era of history is the Neolithic Revolution because he believes it to be one of the most important shifts in human history and it greatly effected modern civilization.

When he was younger, he did not believe that he would want to be a teacher because his brother and mother are both teachers, so he did not want to go down that path. He attended a boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania for his high school education, and he really enjoyed the academic rigor there and the fact that he was challenged. In college, he studied a wide range of topics such as anthropology, archaeology and American history. He also got into culinary arts, vocational studies and environmental education. In fact, he first taught history and then switched to different subjects to teach. Coming to Cuba-Rushford made him go in a total circle back to what he first taught.

He really enjoys the art of planting trees, as he believes “planting a tree is something that is showing dedication to the future in a long term and meaningful way.” When asked what he would do with a million dollars, he responded that he would get more involved in planting a large variety of trees. He would also try and make a place where people could come learn about different types of trees and really to just enjoy their presence. His love for nature really comes into play when he was asked the question of if he had a choice of teaching another class, what would he teach? He responded with the answer that he would create a class called wood leaves and twigs. It would be area-based and “focus on trees and shrubs, and their use and function in society.”

As the interview concluded, he had one piece of advice he said he hopes to pass onto students which is to develop a critical lens. With that he left, “realize that there are seven billion different realities out there based on the way that people view the world, based on their life experiences, based on age, based on the religion they’ve been raised into, based on the region that they’re from, based on what they look like and how they’ve been treated. Understanding that reality and being able to step outside yourself and question that is a really important lesson and skill to be able to have conversations about what is right, what is just, what is true, and what it means to treat people in a compassionate and caring way. Because when you’re only on this planet for anywhere between 10 to 110 years, each of those human interactions count.”

 

 

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